Year of the Bible
This is Lee Carter, representing Atheists United, a non-profit, educational
organization, chartered by the state of California. This is the first of what we hope will
be a weekly program on KPFK, expressing the point of view of the Freethinking
community of America.

In the last quarter of 1982, with little debate, and by unrecorded voice-vote, congress
passed a joint resolution called Public Law 97-280, requesting the president to
name 1983 as "The Year of the Bible." President Reagan signed it into law on
February 3, 1983. They couldn't have chosen a better year, since Good Friday fell
most appropriately on April Fool's Day – thus creating another example of
government endorsed duplication. Unfortunately, this law is no laughing matter. It is
patently unconstitutional, and a clear and present danger to all Americans.

Atheists United decided to take legal action against the president, and approached
the ACLU for assistance. They said they would accept the case if we could get other
parties to join with us. So we enlisted the aid of several protestant ministers, two
rabbis, a minister of Sikh Dharma, two Buddhist and two humanist groups. Now we
are all in court, trying to get this disgraceful law rescinded.

The government has delayed the lawsuit, but it should come to trial sometime in
September, just as those religions wishing to make the most of this opportunity are
going to be pushing it hardest. When most Americans heard of the resolution, they
dismissed it as a harmless little gesture – something like Groundhog Day, or
National Pickle Week. But it's much more than that. Let me quote from a pamphlet
presently being circulated by a religious organization:
"Under Public Law 97-280 a study of The Holy Scripture should now be made a
part of every public and private school curriculum... Anyone attempting in any
way to prevent any American citizen from acquiring... knowledge of and faith in
God through the Holy Scripture is attempting to weaken America. For instance,
individuals and organizations who advocate the banning of the Bible from the
public schools or who actively oppose any Bible study group or interfere in any
way with a Christian Church would be guilty of violating this Law and probably
guilty of sedition against the United States of America... Copies of Public Law
97-280 should be given to friends, neighbors and especially to public servants
who can then take whatever action is necessary in their own departments or
under their own realm of authority to conform to Public Law 97-280. All
elementary, and high school principals, superintendents and college presidents
should be given copies and urged to take immediate steps to add courses of Bible
study to their school curriculum to bring them into conformity with the intent of
Congress."
In other words, if this law were implemented, as suggested, it would put an end to
intellectual and religious freedom. It would be a crime to belong to any Freethought
organization, or publish anything which might be construed as critical of Christian
doctrines. That would include practically all the sciences. Now, just what is the real
intent of this law? To eliminate the Jeffersonian wall of separation between religion and
civil government. When the first amendment to our constitution guarantees "freedom
OF religion" that necessarily includes freedom FROM coercion by those religions with
which you disagree – and that may include all of them. The erosion of this most
important wall already takes the form of tax exemptions for religious property and
income, taking money away from public schools and giving it to parochial ones, using
religious codes for laws and censorship, debasing our currency and pledge of
allegiance with religious slogans, paying chaplains out of tax dollars, building churches
on military property. The list could go on and on. Jerry Falwell, leader of the Moral
Majority, expressed the intent of the law very clearly. He said, "The idea that religion
and politics don't mix was invented by the devil to keep Christians from running their
own country."

But let's take a close look at this obnoxious document, point by point. It starts off...
"JOINT RESOLUTION

Authorizing and requesting the president to proclaim 1983 as the ‘Year of the
Bible.’

Whereas the Bible, the Word of God, has made a unique contribution in shaping
the United States as a distinctive and blessed nation and people";
This is no benign statement. Congress and the president are giving special authority to
one Christian Bible over all other books including those respected by other religions as
revelations from THEIR god. While they may claim that there is only "one" Bible, there
are a number of different versions - with most of the history of Western civilization
involved in wars to establish which one is "TRUE" or to establish what a given passage
"really" means.

The proclamation continues:
"Whereas deeply held religious convictions springing from the Holy Scriptures
led to the early settlement of our nation";
These deeply held convictions were disagreements the settlers had with their mother
countries over the officially accepted interpretation of religion. Their bitter experiences
at the hands of other sects, however, did not prevent them from quickly establishing
their own orthodoxy when they set foot on this continent – severely penalizing anyone
who disagreed with them. Virginia had a death penalty for speaking impiously of the
trinity, or against a known article of Christian faith, or for the third offense of breaking
the Sabbath. Not only were Quakers prohibited from assembling, but they could be
banished from the country, and if they refused exile the penalty was death. Believe it or
not, Massachusetts, that bastion of Catholicism, once had a law decreeing that anyone
suspected of being a Roman Catholic "Shall be jailed, then banished. If taken a
second time, he shall be put to death."

Even the much-touted Maryland Toleration Act read, "Anyone blaspheming against the
trinity, or one of the trinity, shall be punished with death and confiscation, or forfeiture,
of all his or her lands and goods." This act also prohibited Jews from practicing law.

Because of this long history of religious oppression in America, the wall of separation
between religion and government was given top priority as the first amendment. Not
number ten, not number five, not number two. It was the
first order of business. Yet,
today, in 1983, some states still have constitutions prohibiting non-believers from
holding state office or any other public trust, such as teaching or even serving on a jury.
These states are Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi. In Tennessee and North
Carolina, however, atheists were recently successful in striking down these illegal
clauses.

To continue with the proclamation:
"Whereas Biblical teaching inspired concepts of civil government that are
contained in our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the
United States";
The Declaration of Independence was a document geared to enlist the aid of the
French enlightenment with a deist approach to religion – not a messianic one. Even
this was corrected when the actual rules of government were finally laid down,
completely excluding religion from governmental affairs. The Constitution starts with,
"We the People of the United States," NOT, "We the people under god." The only other
reference to religion is in article six, section C, which states that, "No religious test shall
ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
However, as we have already seen, there are legislative bodies quite willing to violate
this article unless prohibited by the courts.

The Treaty of Tripoli states:

"The government of the Unites States is in no sense founded upon the Christian
religion. The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or a
Mohammedan nation."

This treaty was negotiated by James Madison, before his Presidency, and signed by
then-President, George Washington.

Public Law 97-280, however, continues:
"Whereas many of our great national leaders – among them Presidents
Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, and Wilson – paid tribute to the surpassing
influence of the Bible in our country's development, as in the words of
President Jackson that the Bible is 'the rock on which our Republic rests'";
With such a rock we may well sink into a sea of superstition like Iran – another "nation
under god." But to use Lincoln as an endorsement of the Bible is another example of
the Big Lie. As James H. Matteny relates in a letter to one of Lincoln’s biographers,
“When Lincoln would visit Mr. Matteny’s office with others present, Lincoln would often
read a chapter from the Bible and then argue against it.” The letter says, “Lincoln often,
if now wholly, was an atheist; at least, bordered on it. As he grew older, he grew more
discreet, didn’t talk much before strangers about his religion, but to friends, close and
bosom ones, he was open and avowed, fair and honest.” According to some
biographies, he even wrote an atheist book when he was a young man. But either his
wife destroyed it, or he did, upon the counsel of his political advisors. Only a few weeks
before his assassination he was quoted as saying his negative opinion of Christianity
had never changed.

The resolution continues:
“Whereas the history of our nation clearly illustrates the value of voluntarily
applying the teachings of the Scriptures in the lives of individuals, families, and
societies”;
What are they talking about here? The Salem witchcraft trials, the use of the Bible to
support slavery, torture, child abuse, genocide against the Indians, spawning of the Ku
Klux Klan, suppression of women’s rights? Those are the most conspicuous examples
of “biblical teachings.”

The resolution continues:
“Whereas this nation now faces great challenges that will test this nation as it has
never been tested before and;

“Whereas that renewing our knowledge of and faith in God through Holy
Scripture can strengthen us as a nation and a people";
Religion has a vested interest in promoting phony dangers and then boasting that they
and they alone can protect you from those dangers. With all of their "trust in God" and
their claims of defeating death, we notice their popes still make sure there is bullet-
proof glass between them and large crowds. Their ministers still fear walking to the
corner supermarket in the dark, just like all the rest of us.

No, the real significance of this passage is an attempt by the radical right wing to
escalate the East-West political and economic differences into a holy war – using the
Bible once again to rekindle the flames of anti-communist hysteria.

The resolution finally concludes:
"Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of
Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
that the president is authorized and requested to designate 1983 as a
national 'Year of the Bible' in recognition of both the formative influence
the Bible has been for our nation, and our national need to study and apply
the teachings of the Holy Scriptures."
Apply the teachings of the holy scriptures? This blatantly proclaims that they are
trying to establish Christianity as the source of government. That's exactly what
caused the Dark Ages. The Renaissance – which means rebirth – was the
overturning of this degenerate type of government with the rediscovery of the Greek
and Roman civilizations, our
true roots. From these civilizations we obtained our
laws, legal systems, science, and concepts of democracy. The eventual flowering of
logic and science has accomplished more in fifty years than religion had done in two
thousand. As President Madison put it, "During almost fifteen centuries, the legal
establishment of Christianity has been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or
less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the
laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution."

In a case similar to President Reagan and this proclamation, President Jefferson
was once asked to propose a National Day of Fasting and Prayer. He showed more
intelligence and integrity than Reagan by refusing. He said, "But it is only proposed
that I should 'recommend,' not 'prescribe' a day of fasting and prayer. That is, that I
should indirectly assume to the United States an authority over religious exercises,
which the Constitution has directly precluded them from."

In summation, our objection to this proclamation is that it is establishes a religion,
undermines ecumenical dialogue, promotes intolerance, and attempts to take the
pluralism out of American life. It would, in fact, lead to the same kind of situation now
existing in Ireland and Iran.

These Christian Bibles in no way support religious freedom, much less freedom
from
religion. The "faithful" are constantly being called upon to "purify" society of "false
gods" – meaning to liquidate anyone who disagrees with them. Take
Deuteronomy
13, verse 9, calling for the stoning of a brother, son, daughter, father or friend who
deviates from the "true" doctrines. Or
Luke 19, verse 27, which states, "But those
mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay
them before me." No, this proclamation is just another step in the attempt to
“Christianize" America, resulting in the
destruction of our freedoms. We must not
return to the Dark Ages. America must
not become a Christian Iran. This
proclamation
must be declared UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

The Bible is an idol, a fetish. Christians don't
read it, they worship it. They buy it and
conspicuously display it in their homes as a symbol of conformity. Their so-called
"study groups" are designed to select quotations that support certain preconceived
doctrines. But hardly anybody has actually read it, objectively – because it makes no
sense in today's modern world. Next week on this program we'll begin taking a close
look at what this incredibly stupid book actually says. If you'd like more information on
the anti-superstition organization which has presented this commentary, please
contact Atheists United. Thank you for listening, and we wish you a full, rich, and
happy life right here on earth.
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